Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Rapid-Fire Reviews! Then kick back and enjoy the show, as we deliver a six-pack of bite-sized critiques for your reading pleasure. We'll kick off the show with the Children of the Atom, as we check out the first issue of Uncanny X-Men...
Uncanny X-Men #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The idea of an antihero team has been a recurring trope in comic books, but you can't help but feel strange seeing former flagship title Uncanny X-Men in its current state. Composed of grim and gritty mutants such as Magneto, Sabretooth, Psylocke and Archangel, you can't blame writer Cullen Bunn for this book's concept - he seems to be trying hard to channel Chris Claremont's voice into this seeming remake of Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force, but the problem is, there's nothing new for readers to sink their teeth into. Artist Greg Land goes for big, blockbuster action, although his take on Monet seems distractingly photo-referenced. Ultimately, Bunn has been dealt a bad hand with this high concept and this artist, and that doesn't bode well for this X-book.
Action Comics #48 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder pack a lot into the latest issue of Action Comics, but it may come at the cost of this book's overarching themes. Pak has had the strongest handle on Clark Kent's depowering, but with Vandal Savage absorbing the power of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the end message of this issue is that might does indeed make right, as Superman has to use kryptonite-powered armor (not to mention a superfluous cameo by the Justice League United) to finally stem the tide. That said, Pak's handle on Clark's voice is strong, and his take on he and Wonder Woman's dynamic makes me wonder why he couldn't trade Superman/Wonder Woman with Peter Tomasi. Aaron Kuder's artwork, however, remains as consistent as ever, and he makes the big action moments really soar. All in all, not a bad book, but it could use some tightening up.
Bitch Planet #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There's a whole world behind Bitch Planet, and Kelly Sue DeConnick knows every page of its sordid history. With its bleak flashback to Meiko Maki's upbringing, DeConnick uses a masterful metaphor about violins and eventually turns it from misogynist imagery to something radically defiant. There is a lot of bad stuff going on in this issue, ranging from one executive's racist deviancy to the desperation one family goes through in order to protect one another. DeConnick not only is super-deliberate in her choices, but the thing that is most impressive about Bitch Planet is how much bravery and steel each of her characters possesses. Artist Taki Soma work is hyper-clean, reminding me a bit of Joe Eisma - and that proves to be a great palate cleanser from the artists that have previously drawn Bitch Planet's stark, hyper-rendered future. If you haven't been reading this masterful book, you need to get on it, stat.
Midnighter #8 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Considering how bonkers Steve Orlando's writing has been with Midnighter, is it any surprise that he's teamed up his leather-clad antihero with the animal-merging powers of Bwana Beast? Pitting Midnighter against mixes of jaguars, elephants, spiders and more is exactly Orlando's wheelhouse, although you can't help but wonder how main series artist ACO would have drawn these fantastic creatures. Artist David Messina fills in, and while his work is cleanly inked, there's little in the way of personality or speed that this book is typically known for. (Although the way he renders animal transformation is super-gross, and I applaud him for the level of detail he puts in.) Ultimately, even DC's strongest book has to have some down moments, and if the worst thing this book does is slam together a corrupt sportsman with a mosquito, I think Midnighter is going to be just fine.
Nova #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I've knocked Sean Ryan's writing on New Suicide Squad in the past, but I have to give credit where it's due - he seems to really be nailing his voice when it comes to Nova. The problem with this issue is its structure more than anything else - there are two really good potential stories here, but slamming them together winds up hurting the momentum of both of them. For my money, the opening sequence where Sam discovers his father has been replaced by an imposter is the highlight of the book - thanks to Cory Smith's animated and expressive style, you really get the sense of fear and anxiety both for Sam and his family. But Ryan cuts that pathos short with his next story, which is basically a New Warriors-style storyline featuring Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales - it's a fun, lightweight story that feels wildly out of place from the intro. Still, Smith's artwork looks superb throughout, and once Ryan decides what direction he wants this story to go in, I think Nova might be his best work yet.
Batman Beyond #8 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): For ostensibly being a bit of a breather issue, Batman Beyond sure knows how to keep readers intrigued. While Tim Drake spends much of this issue worrying about Matt McGinnis, Dan Jurgens gooses this issue with liberal doses of action, such as a two-page fracas with Rewire, but the real meat of this issue has to be the fall of the Justice League to Brother Eye, which artist Bernard Chang knocks out of the freaking park. I love the angularity that Chang gives his characters - particularly Batman, whether he's swooping through the air or giving Rewire a mean left hook - but the flashbacks in particular looks like the end of the world, especially the way the zombified Leaguers look. That said, some readers may express some frustration at how Matt's storyline seems to slow down the flow of the book - but ultimately, Jurgens is setting up his next storyline, and if we've got to eat our vegetables first, he's not afraid to give us some visual desserts as a reward.